This Izmir kofte recipe is one of the easiest you will ever come across! All that you need to do is combine some partially fried potatoes and meatballs, cover it with a homemade tomato sauce and bake it for a short time. And, this recipe also freezes exceptionally well!
Classic Turkish meatballs called kofte and kadinbudu kofte (meatball with rice) have already become our readers’ favorite dinner recipes. And today, we are sharing another köfte recipe from Turkish cuisine, which is comforting and packed with flavors.
If you happen to visit Turkey one day, you will often see Izmir koftesi at homemade food restaurants called lokanta in Turkish. It is generally served with bean piyaz, orzo rice pilaf and cacik.
Today, we have even included some easy variations you can try on this dish. Oh, and did we mention that this dish also freezes incredibly well? We can guarantee that this will quickly become a new family favorite!
What is Izmir Köfte (Smyrna Meatballs)?
As you may know, there are several kofte dishes in Turkish cuisine. Classic homemade Turkish kofte, kofta kebab and kadinbudu kofte are just a few of them. Each city in Turkey has its own version of meatballs.
Izmir kofte got its name from a Turkish city, Izmir, which is located on the west coast of Turkey. It used to be called Smyrna in the past when Greeks were living there. So this dish is also known as Smyrna meatballs.
It is made from oval-shaped meatballs and potatoes. These two are baked with a garlicky tomato sauce made with tomato paste and pureed tomato. So this dish is also known as Turkish meatballs in tomato sauce.
If you want a more soup-like version, you should go check out our meatball stew with potatoes and carrots.
Why should you make this recipe?
- If you already love to pair fried meatballs with french fries as a meal, this recipe is the next level. Potatoes and meatballs are baked together in a tomato sauce and result in one of the tastiest dishes.
- This recipe can be made ahead. You can pre-make the entire meal and store it in the fridge and just heat in the oven before serving. Alternatively, you can combine the fried meatballs, potatoes and tomato sauce in a baking pan and keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Then you can bake it when you are ready.
- It is a freezer-friendly recipe. You can freeze the entire dish after it is baked and cooled completely.
- These baked Turkish meatballs with potatoes taste amazing the next day! The flavors of leftovers are allowed to develop, making it even more delicious.
About the Ingredients
This delicious Izmir kofte recipe can be made with virtually three categories of ingredients; meatballs, vegetables, and tomato sauce.
- Ground meat: We like to use ground beef with 10% fat. You can also use ground lamb or a combination of both.
- Spices: We use black pepper, cumin, paprika, and salt. These are our ultimate meatball spices. You can also use aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper and a little oregano.
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs help add some texture to the meatballs while also keeping them together. You can substitute one or two slices of stale bread for breadcrumbs if you want. Just crumble the bread slices in your hands or in a food processor and use instead of breadcrumbs.
- Egg: It helps everything to hold together. As the ground beef we use doesn’t contain much fat, we need something to keep the meatballs in their shape. And an egg is what you need to achieve this.
- Onion: Pureed onion helps add a bit of moistness - do not leave it out!
- Parsley: And finally, flat-leaf parsley gives a nice refreshing touch to the mix. It is entirely optional when making meatballs, but we love the flavor it gives and wouldn’t substitute it with anything else.
- Potatoes: They are a must in this traditional meatball potato casserole recipe. Use big potatoes and make thick slices. This will add a ton of flavor and prevent them from cooking into mush.
- Tomatoes: These are to top the dish before putting it in the oven. Use summer tomatoes if you can find.
- Green peppers: We use Turkish green peppers, but you can use any green pepper you can find. If you use a large green bell pepper, slice it lengthwise. And if you use smaller ones like shishito peppers, use them whole.
- Tomatoes: This Turkish kofte in tomato sauce is best made using fresh tomatoes. You can however also use canned crushed tomatoes if you are in a hurry.
- Tomato paste: It helps deepen the flavor and thicken the sauce.
- Garlic: Use as many as you want. Garlic and tomatoes make one of the best flavor combinations in a sauce.
How to Make
Izmir kofte is one of our favorite kofte recipes that are also incredibly easy to make. It is packed with well-balanced sweet and savory flavors, and can even be altered to your liking!
- Make the meatball mixture. Combine the pureed onions and breadcrumbs into a large mixing bowl. Then, add in your black pepper, cumin, paprika, and salt. Mix these ingredients together well. Next, add your ground beef, egg, and chopped parsley. Using your hands, knead the ingredients together until you have a uniform mixture.
- Shape your meatballs. Once your mixture is made, shape the meat into oval-shaped balls using wet hands. Place them onto a plate. You can wet your hands slightly to make the mixture easier to work with. Set the meatballs aside.
- Prepare the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and pat them dry. Then, cut them into thick slices and place them on paper towels again. Make sure that they are completely dry.
- Fry the potato slices on both sides until they are golden brown. They don’t have to be fully cooked. Place the fried slices on a paper towel and set them aside.
- Cook the meatballs. Using the same oil, fry the meatballs on all sides until they are brown. Again, they don't have to be fully cooked. Once they change color on the outside, you can transfer them to a paper towel and set them aside.
- Make the tomato sauce. In a saucepan, heat some olive oil and add the tomato paste. Cook it over medium-low heat for about a minute. Add in the pureed tomatoes and chopped garlic cloves. Add salt and allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes. Finally, add 2 cups of hot water to the tomato mixture and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Assemble and bake. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Add the partially fried potato slices and meatballs inside of a baking dish.
- Then, add all of the tomato sauce. Top the mixture with tomato slices and green peppers. Bake the Izmir Kofte uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and serve them immediately with freshly chopped parsley.
- You should cut the potatoes into thick slices. Not like you would when making French fries. If they aren’t thick enough when fried, they will completely melt when they are baked.
- First fry the potato slices before you fry the meatballs. You can use the same pan and frying oil for both. If you first fry the meatballs in the oil, it won’t be good to fry the potatoes after them.
- Instead of pureeing fresh tomatoes, you can use canned chopped tomatoes. However, freshly pureed tomatoes will always taste much better!
There are two main versions of Izmir kofte. The first is the one we are making today, Turkish meatballs in tomato sauce made with fried potatoes.
The second variation is made with un-fried potatoes and meatballs. To make this version of the recipe, the vegetables (uncooked) are placed at the bottom of the dish, topped by raw meatballs. Then, the tomato sauce is poured over the ingredients. Finally, the dish is baked in the oven, but you will have to cook the dish for almost an hour.
İzmir köfte is often paired with rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf. These two are considered as ultimate side dishes in Turkey. Any dish can be served with them. If you want a more flavorful pilaf, then make rice with raisins.
Also, something refreshing like a bowl of homemade yoghurt, Turkish cacik or yogurt drink ayran and a salad like shepherd salad or radish salad is always served on the side.
Fry them in a pan first. They don't need to be completely cooked as they will be baked in the oven afterwards. Just cook them until brown on the outside.
Use an egg in your meatball mixture. It prevents meatballs from falling apart.
Other Kofte Recipes
Other Turkish Recipes
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Izmir Kofte (Turkish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)
Meatballs and potatoes first fried in a pan and then baked with a tomato sauce in the oven. It is a flavor-packed weeknight dinner that makes everyone satisfied.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish
For Meatballs and Potatoes:
1 medium sized onion, pureed
¼ cup breadcrumbs (or 2 slices of stale white bread, finely chopped or crumbled in a food processor)
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
500g (1.102 pounds) ground beef (10% fat) or lamb
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
4 medium sized potatoes
½ cup vegetable oil (or sunflower oil) for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 medium sized tomatoes, pureed
2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot water
2 medium sized tomatoes
3 Turkish green peppers ( or 1 green bell pepper), sliced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Meatballs and Potatoes:
In a large mixing bowl, combine pureed onion and breadcrumbs.
Add in black pepper, cumin, paprika and salt. Mix well.
Add in ground beef, egg and parsley. Mix well with your hand.
Shape into oval balls and put them on a plate. You can wet your hands a little as needed. Put the meatballs aside.
Peel the potatoes, dry them well and cut into thick slices (please read the note). Put them on a paper towel. Pat them dry.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Test with a pinch of salt. It is ready if it immediately sizzles.
Fry the potatoes until both sides are golden. They don’t need to be fully cooked. Transfer them onto a paper towel.
In the same pan and oil, fry the meatballs until brown. They don’t have to be fully cooked. It is ok once they change the color on the outside. Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying. Transfer them onto a paper towel.
In a saucepan, heat olive oil. Add in tomato paste and cook it, stirring with a spoon for about a minute over medium low heat.
Add in pureed tomato and chopped garlic cloves. Sprinkle salt over these and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 cups hot water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Assemble and Bake:
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
Transfer the partly fried potatoes and meatballs in a baking pan.
Pour all the sauce over them.
Top with tomato slices and green peppers.
Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
- Cut the potatoes in thick slices, not like you would do when making French fries. If the potatoes are not thick enough when frying, they will melt when they are baked.
Fry the potatoes first and then the meatballs using the same pan and oil. If you first fry the meatballs, it won’t be good to fry the potatoes in the same oil.
Instead of pureeing fresh tomatoes, you can use canned chopped tomatoes. But fresh tomatoes taste better.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 696
- Sugar: 9.4 g
- Sodium: 1365.3 mg
- Fat: 40.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 51.5 g
- Protein: 36 g
- Cholesterol: 121.5 mg
Keywords: izmir kofte, Turkish meatballs in tomato sauce
Hello, if freezing recipe would I fully cook then freeze? Thanks.
Zerrin & Yusuf says
Yes, you can freeze it after fully cooking the dish. Or you can put the fried meatballs and potatoes in a baking pan, pour the sauce over them, let them completely cool and then freeze. The only thing you will need to do is to put the baking pan in the oven when you are ready.
Your recipes are amazing for classical Turkish cooking. Thank you for your heart warming posts. I really enjoy reading and trying the recipes.
This is my husband's most favourite dish......I make it quite often for him. I learned this dish from his sister Muge in Izmir.
Thanks for sharing your recipe and photos'.....Afiyet olsun. Love your Blog.
Faye Levy says
Do you use hot or mild pepper paste? Also, do you like to use a deep pot or a shallot one?
I used mild pepper paste, but hot one could be even better. A shollot pot works better for this dish.
Sorry, I meant to write "shallow". Glad you understood. It was late at night for me! 🙂
How funny I made the same mistake 🙂